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Adventures in the land of accreditations

International accreditations are strict processes. You give the facts and tell the truth. Nevertheless, I would argue that some storytelling is needed in building the context, as we try to make our actions understood. For that, we need words and stories, not just data.


Merja Lehtomäki

specialist, international accreditations
Haaga-Helia ammttikorkeakoulu

Published : 20.10.2023

For many years Finnish higher education institutions were happily doing their thing without investing any thoughts on international accreditations. They knew they were good and that should be enough.

The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) success shone its light on higher education, and the institutions were neither willing to pay money for the accreditations nor to commit resources to the work that would take many years. Only the most prestigious research universities found it worthwhile to invest on that.

Change of Landscape

Gradually, times changed on the education market. At meetings abroad, colleagues started to politely acquire about our institution’s accreditation status and if they found it was nonexistent, the conversation often halted. The cues were clear. To be taken seriously in the global higher education market, accreditations were the key.

The Finnish Education Evaluation Centre (FINEEC) audit obviously was not enough to stay in the game. Especially in the context of business schools, international accreditations became valuable currency when negotiating partnerships and research cooperation. Accreditations offered an easy solution for evaluating business schools and their credibility at the global market.

As a business-oriented institution, Haaga-Helia realised that actions needed to be taken towards accreditations. They were not just nice to have anymore, but a necessity for survival in the international context. So, it became strategically clear that the institution would strive for international accreditations.

Entering the Unknown

The beginning was not easy. Obstacles needed to be tackled and at times, even dragons were slayed, which Haaga-Helia bravely did. It took a while longer than expected, but was definitely worth all the effort.

Meanwhile, our institution achieved international accreditations and quality labels in other fields – The International Centre of Excellence in Tourism and Hospitality Education (THE-ICE) for our hospitality and International Council for Coaching Excellence (ICCE) for our Sports Management Programme. They built our confidence and paved the way forward.

The Education Reform, the growth in RDI funding and the successful international audit in the spring 2023 strengthened us even more. Now we are ready for the next phase and in a much better form than before. Standing on top of the mountain we now see further and can head towards new terrains.

The Next Mountain to Climb

We have just entered the eligibility phase of our first business accreditation, the EFMD accreditation process for our BBA programme in International Business. This will show us the roadmap for the next two years and there is no doubt that it is going to be an adventure with a steep learning curve.

We will use the EFMD accreditation standards and criteria as a tool to build our International Business programme even better. The development goals given by EFMD are nothing separate from our everyday life, quite the contrary – they align well with our audit results and our strategy.

A successful accreditation result will benefit the whole institution. The process will be good practice for our next, institution-wide accreditation adventures that lie in the future.